Hi Readers! Here’s a strange case. An eighth grade science teacher in Kansas has been fired for creating a “sexually hostile environment.”
On the face of it, that sounds like it makes sense. Who wants a teacher harassing the kids – or even other teachers? But here’s what the guy was ostensibly fired for:
“I drew a map out of proportion,” the teacher, Ryan Haraughty, told a Fox4 reporter in Kansas City. Florida was bigger than it should have been. “The kids jump all over stuff like that. ‘Oh Mr. Haraughty, Florida is all wrong!’ Okay, whatever. Not thinking, I said, ‘Florida got excited.’ And right after that, I’m thinking – you know. But I decided I’m not going to dwell on it.”
Who would? It’s dumb joke, and maybe “inappropriate” (the word of choice for almost everything these days). But who cares?
Well, one parent did. And now the beloved science teacher has been kicked out — a teacher that hundreds of people showed up the other night to support.
Forget about whether the principal should have sided with the parent. For all we know, it all goes back to internal politics, and rumor has it that the politics at that school make Capitol Hill look like Thanksgiving at the Rockwell’s. What’s disturbing is the idea that parents think they can control every single thing their children see, hear or experience.
Somehow a conviction has grown up among a lot of parents that our kids should have a childhood unmarred by a single upset. This belief kicks in even before birth, when pregnant moms make sure they eat precisely the foods recommended by the experts. No cupcakes for them! (No Kahlua, either.) Baby needs a perfect diet.
The minute the baby pops out, parents are encouraged to turn the nursery into a spa, with baby wipe warmers, and mobiles that play womb sounds.
Next come the classes, toys and videos, all purchased in the hopes of conferring every enrichment actual riches can buy. And then comes school, and parental pushiness.
It’s not that I don’t think parents should be involved in their children’s education. I do. I am! But what we’re forgetting is that part of education is dealing with life. And life is not always perfect.
If a teacher makes a comment that is a little shocking, would you really prefer a kid who can’t deal? Or a kid who laughs, shrugs, or maybe even feels a frisson of discomfort – but moves on?
Ironically, it’s quite possible that this child did move on. But having told mom or dad about the incident, the parent did not. That’s because some parents are not only convinced that they can control their child’s every experience, they are also convinced that if they don’t control it all – that if their kid gets a B when he should have gotten a B+, say, or gets picked last for tag, or sees a movie that’s too grown-up, or hears a joke that’s shocking, or eventually doesn’t get into the “right” college – all bets are off. The kid is hurt, perhaps irreparably.
I still remember my friend’s 80-year-old grandmother telling me about the time she was a school girl and some guy called her and her sister over to his car, and showed them the real world version of the science teacher’s drawing of Florida. “We still giggle about that,” she said.
Giggle? She didn’t consider the experience traumatizing. It didn’t become the defining moment of her life. It was a weird and obviously memorable event. But it did not throw her off forever.
We forget how resilient kids are. In fact, we tend to emphasize the potentially terrible consequences of every untoward event (this is a country addicted to TV talk shows, after all). Fearing the worst, we attempt to engineer every moment, forgetting that one of the things that makes kids resilient is dealing with some difficulties.
One R-rated joke by a great science teacher is not going to ruin any kid’s life. Growing up with a parent who thinks it will – that’s another story.
Growing up without a great science teacher — that’s another story, too.